Hello everyone. I would like to introduce myself as the IPKat's new occasional contributor. My name is Tufty, and I am a cat (as well as a Kat).
(Right: me, pictured with my favourite food)
Having kept a close eye on feline-related aspects of intellectual property, I felt compelled to contribute to this weblog after seeing a recent decision (O/211/07) by some humans at the UK so-called Intellectual Property Office.
The decision related to an appeal by Mars UK Limited, purveyors of 'feline foodstuff', the subject of their patent application (published as GB2397484). The application related to a feline multi-component foodstuff which would allegedly allow cats such as myself to optimise the macronutrient content (ie. protein, fat & carbohydrate) of our own diet. An examiner at the IPO had a problem with how the invention was claimed because it wasn't clear enough, but once the claim had been amended the hearing officer found that claim 1 in the following form was allowable:
"A feline multi-component foodstuff comprising three or more compartmentalised food compositions, of which at least three compositions differ in their content of fat, protein or carbohydrate when used in allowing a feline animal to vary its consumption of each of the food compositions independently and to achieve an intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate to an optimum ratio and achieve a suitable nutritionally complete diet".
This might seem fair enough to the average human (although there appears to be a large amount of what human attorneys often call 'free beer' in it), but what I am particularly concerned about is the motivation behind it. The description of the patent application, which is very extensive, accuses certain cats of being 'naive' about their diets and flavour preferences, preferring instead to choose what to eat based on so-called 'hedonic cues'. One part of the description I found particularly disturbing was the following:
"The aim of this study was to determine whether cats 'learned' about the macronutrient profile of the diet, such that the initial hedonic response was subsequently influenced by physiological responses (which may vary with the macronutrient profile of the diet). Cats were tested prior to experiencing the experimental diets and flavours, then after a period of monadic, repeated exposures to the diets, to determine if their feeding responses had changed through experience.For any other cats reading this, I advise you to watch out for any food your human servants try to feed to you if it arrives in compartmentalised form. Although they might mean well, they really want to stop us cats from thinking for ourselves. Stand up for your feline rights, and object to this outrageous attempt at mind control. Stick to birds and mice, and you will be fine. Say no to lard.
In order to control the macronutrient profile of the diet within more defined limits than are achievable using a typical wet product recipe, relatively 'clean' sources of macronutrients were used. In the second part of this first phase of work, the macronutrients protein and fat were investigated - soy isolate was used as the predominant protein source, with some chicken breast present in all diets, and lard was used as a fat source.
Diets were designed consisting of increasing levels of protein (soy isolate and chicken), combined with decreasing levels of fat (lard). In order to 'confuse' the cats and mask the natural smell and flavour of the diets, additional flavour cues were added (see 'Methods' section), to reduce selection of a product purely on the basis of its inherent smell or flavour. This should demonstrate if the cats 'learned' about and selected diets on the basis of their protein or fat content per se, when fed over an extended period. The trial was also designed to indicate whether cats preferred a diet containing a specific level of protein and/or fat, when offered an ad libitum choice of the 3 diets".
More cat mind control here, here and here.